A lecture on sexual polarity: the great tragic flaw of masculine psychology

[Note: this article is part of my memoir, Broke, Single, Crazy and Old. It is also available as a podcast here.]

“Every man knows that his highest purpose in life cannot be reduced to any particular relationship. If a man prioritizes his relationship over his highest purpose, he weakens himself, disserves the universe, and cheats his woman of an authentic man who can offer his full, undivided presence.” ― David Deida

Second comment on the letter, and I will use the opportunity to deliver a bit of sexual polarity theory lecture – and also explain, as promised earlier, the great tragic flaw of masculine psychology, with fatal consequences to women’s happiness: “To be honest I do not sense it is uniquely me you are loving…”. Much of what I am about to say next reflects my understanding of David Deida, the man who brought sexual polarity into the mainstream. Note that John Gray’s ideas (the “Mars and Venus” books) is also a sexual polarity theory, but it doesn’t have the depth and scope of Deida’s ideas. I believe that Deida misses a few things, perhaps even the most important things; but if you complement his thinking with Victor Baranco’s ideas, you get a complete picture.

Every woman wants to feel she is loved uniquely and is irreplaceable, but this happens rarely with masculine people, according to Deida. For a person living in masculine consciousness, purpose must precede and pre-empt love. One of the consequences of this, which is controversial, is that for a masculine person, his woman is replaceable. This is not “sexism,” by the way, to the extent that men and women are not slaves to their gender, meaning that men can be core-feminine and women can be core-masculine in their polarity. Another important distinction here (this one is mine and not Deida’s), is that masculine and feminine are two dimensions, not a linear scale with two poles. The goal here is to become highly skilled in both. Simplistically speaking, these two poles are “doing” versus “being,” or achieving success versus the ability to be happy no matter what. Deida’s fundamental idea is that people tend to prefer, and willingly inhabit, one or the other sexual polarities (which are also fundamental psychological archetypes), having greater or lesser skill in one or the other, and are happiest and most productive when they stay in that role most of the time (not always! That would be unhealthy). And finally – very important – that the most powerful (or transformative) sexual relationships tend to occur between people who are, maybe deliberately, occupying opposite polarities.

I am not going to fully define what I mean by “masculine” and “feminine” here, for that please check out my book As Lovers Do, or anything by Deida. But I will summarize the basic ideas.

First, there is a common misconception that “surrender” is a feminine trait. All love requires surrender, from whatever polarity you inhabit, meaning that you surrender to the needs and desires of your partner. It’s the needs and desires that tend to polarize into one archetype or the other. A neat definition is that “masculine” is the desire and skill to get what you want, whereas “feminine” is the desire and skill to enjoy what you have. Masculine is single-pointed consciousness, whereas feminine is diffuse, it is more aware of different objects in its environment and their needs. The masculine wants to solve problems, or to “provide,” whereas the feminine wants to give and receive pleasure, especially being seen, witnessed, appreciated and to have her desire and her gifts honored (which is especially pleasurable for her, obviously, given that this rarely happens for her under patriarchy).

The main usefulness of this theory – which Deida appears to miss, despite other deep wisdom – is that the optimal relationship occurs when masculine serves the feminine, and feminine serves her own pleasure – which, her being feminine, naturally extends to taking care of her masculine partner. By contrast, a man left to himself would not naturally be very attentive to his feminine partner’s needs. This is not how men are designed, we are designed for hunting, winning wars and problem-solving, which require single-focus on our mission or goal. Typically, men have to be educated about women if we are to be successful with them. Just as women need to be educated about men, if they are to be successful. Women need to be educated to value their own pleasure and to operate from attraction and loving assertion (informing the men of their needs, thus ensuring that the men will win with them) rather than direction, criticism or make-wrong, and to accept men as they are – which is difficult for them, because men are not like women and are often emotionally clueless. This is not a prescription or a command for women; nobody should inhabit a sexual polarity all the time and boundaries are important. It is, however, a suggestion to women if they want to have their masculine partners support them and be present to them and adore them, something which is important to most feminine people’s happiness.

That’s Victor Baranco for you, in a nutshell. It’s a far more practical and actionable philosophy than Deida’s for ordinary couples. Deida’s philosophy does work well for a sex guru or anyone who is relating from a primary sexual need, as it does have the potential to create powerful sex. It also has deep wisdom for men seeking enlightenment through their work in the world, men with a tantric attitude towards life. The challenge here for men, is that relationships have many needs beyond the sexual, and an obsession with enlightenment tends to preclude it. Deida’s ideas have limitations in dealing with most women, especially the women that we really want (the women who aren’t looking for a “daddy”). I know a lot more happy couples who follow Baranco’s system, than Deida’s system. In fact, I don’t know any happy couples at all who follow Deida’s system. Deida’s system is aspirational, compared to Baranco’s system which is highly practical.

And in addition to creating happy relationships, Baranco’s ideas, if they were implemented, will naturally and inevitably transform patriarchy. Full equality of the sexes in politics, business and the law is desirable, but women do not want to be equal in the bedroom. They want to be adored and to receive all the attention. It’s my main critique about Baranco, that he seems to have missed the social/political implications of his philosophy. If men were fully present to women in the home and the bedroom, and listened to them fully within their masculine limitations, it would fundamentally transform politics, business and the law. And not only because women’s viewpoints are valuable (and often dismissed), but for an even more important reason: everyone would be happier. Happy people are naturally more effective, more generous and more loving. The fight for women’s equality is a good fight, but it’s not enough. There needs to also be a fight for more love, freedom and joy in the world. You do this by modeling love wherever you show up and by being joyful, generous and free (as in free from self-judgment). Women are uniquely qualified to model love for all of us; but it is everyone’s job.

Once again: I have written a whole book about this, and Deida has written many books (his most famous being The Way of the Superior Man), and John Gray has written many books; so summarizing these ideas in a few paragraphs is not easy.

The thing I want to leave you with, is that despite a lot of wisdom, the male writers on sexual polarity (excluding Baranco, who wrote almost nothing) don’t go far enough. Due to the fact that women evolved to be nurturers and care-givers, they are genetically superior to men in that regard (and their social conditioning makes this even more true) – that’s the simple truth that nobody wants to say, and which generates push-back everywhere, even from some feminist women, ironically. And therefore, practically speaking, the wise man will let his feminine partner take the lead and will do whatever she asks of him, especially in relationship; but provided (and this is key) that satisfying her desire is congruent with his own needs, purpose and identity. Where the real power emerges, is in that negotiation. And not just in the sexual sphere, which is Deida’s focus. In every sphere. This is controversial, and I address that controversy – probably not very effectively, because people have so much emotional charge around this that intelligent conversation is often impossible, but I try – in my other article What Women Want: Towards a New Psychology of Love, Sex and Gender Relations. You can find it on my site https://authentic.singles.

The masculine and feminine evolutionary purposes

I will return now to unpacking Ellen’s statement,  “I do not sense it is uniquely me you are loving”. There is one more important piece here.

Deida’s idea is that if a masculine person disobeys the basic rule of staying true to his purpose, and sacrifices it for his woman, he will likely lose both; because at the end of the day, what makes a man attractive is his commitment to his purpose or his mission, and his ability to “provide,” however you define that (it’s not just about making money, it includes emotional and intellectual gifts, and quality of attention). I take everything that Deida says with a large grain of salt, partly because I don’t like him as a teacher (I find him lacking in compassion and a bit of a misogynist), and partly because I find his ideas too extreme. Any mission or purpose, be it masculine or feminine, must be balanced with the needs of the other when in relationship. And yet I largely agree with Deida here. A masculine person without a mission, is an unhappy person. A feminine person without a mission… it’s not as important to her (and please, remember that all women are not core-feminine and no woman operates from a feminine polarity all the time). A feminine person derives her identity from many different sources, so she may still be happy even without a clear mission. But a masculine person derives his identity from his production. Without that, he’s screwed. In a lot of ways, men are simpler and more linear than women. Recent studies, incidentally, confirm that the strongest predictor of men’s happiness is not family or even health; it is job satisfaction.

And now, back to the narrative: the root reason that Ellen did not want me. What I am about to say next is mine, and is an extension of Deida’s ideas.

A masculine person’s mission, from both an evolutionary and a psychological or developmental perspective, is to provide for his woman and his family, to provide for all the women of the world, and to “contribute to life” [Marshall Rosenberg]. Sometimes these needs will be in conflict, and in such cases he must choose to provide for the greatest number possible or achieve the most impact. In this he may need to leave his woman behind. Most men know this (that women are replaceable), but they don’t speak of it, for obvious reasons (they would never get laid again). But think about it: there is an evolutionary reason for this truth of women being replaceable. Despite what women might consider a tragic flaw in men’s psychology, if men were interested in love more than in providing (or solving problems, which is the same thing), we would still be living in caves. Happy in caves perhaps, but hungry, cold, ignorant, and without Wi-Fi. Truly, women should be thankful that men were made in the way they are. It is my thesis, oft repeated and maybe ad nauseam, that men and women are perfectly designed for each other. They are perfectly designed to complement each other in the service of evolution; and since the purpose of evolution is to magnify love (complexity and inter-relatedness), men and women are also perfectly designed to teach each other how to love. With the unfortunate consequence, however, that they are also perfectly designed to torture each other. They would not be able to to torture each other, if they did not care. “Men and women have searched for each other for generations, and always missed one another” – Dieter Duhm.

My purpose at the time, and remains so to this day, was having a good time, living at depth, “experiencing the full range of human emotions” [Victor Baranco]. If you cannot see how a mission of “having a good time” can contribute to life, let alone provide for all the women of the world, then listen up (I expand on this idea in the final essay  I have a Dream). In a world gone mad with false values powered by ignorance and internalized oppression, there is nothing more important than having a good time and living at depth. There is no task as important or meaningful. No task. Nothing. It’s a mission that can benefit people on a small scale (by adding joy to the world, brightening the lives of all the people we touch) and potentially on a larger scale as well (through works of science, philosophy, art, or books such as this):

”Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

The basic problem with Ellen and me, is that she was not fundamentally in alignment with this mission. Or maybe she was in alignment, but I lacked the maturity to deliver the attention and care that would have allowed her to play with me, in that sphere. She wasn’t ready for it. This was the root reason that she did not want me, which she intuitively understood. She was not against it, of course – she even had a considerable talent for it, for fun, intimacy and the enjoyment of life – but it was not core for her. What was core for her at the time was emotional survival, handling her demons, “grounding” as she put it and repeated endlessly.

And hence, Ellen had a deeper understanding of relationships and man/woman than I did at the time. It wasn’t conscious in her, but it was clear. And this despite the fact of her craziness. She had, after all, the relational advantage of being female.

Such was the nature and the causes of Ellen’s second refusal of me. I will tell now the sequel of that exchange of letters. The sequel is actually stranger than fiction and adds to the karmic flavor of the scene.